MOVIE REVIEWS: Cinema One Originals Festival 2018 (Part 1)

Here’s the first part of our festival report on Cinema One Originals 2018, in which we cover Double Twisting Double Back, Mamu (and a Mother Too), Never Tear Us ApartPaglisan, and Pang-MMKThe 14th edition of Cinema One Originals Film Festival runs from October 12 to 21, 2018 in select cinemas in Metro Manila.

READ MORE: Guide to Cinema One Originals Festival 2018


DOUBLE TWISTING DOUBLE BACK

Joem Bascon and Tony Labrusca in ‘Double Twisting Double Back.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: A year ago, Badger is one of the best gymnasts in the Philippines. He wants to be the very best, until his reckless best friend sabotaged his athletic career. Now, Badger is miserably working as a distributor, selling alcoholic beverages to the managers of bars and supermarkets. To his delight, Badger receives a new opportunity to pursue his quest to be the best Filipino gymnast. He immediately resigns from his job. His reckless best friend, who fulfills his desires through this job, gets pissed and vows to stop Badger’s dreams once again.

Review: Double Twisting Double Back puts a fascinating marriage to gymnastics and sexual deed, both activities similar in a way that they involve an endorphin rush. While most psychological studies state that engaging in exercise (or in this case, competitive sports) can help enriching one’s sex life, the film lays out a reversed hypothesis: surrendering to carnal desires can actually give a sense of relaxation, and therefore focus before an upcoming competition. This is the main argument that satyromaniac Wasi (Joem Bascon) enforces to his athlete best friend Badger (Tony Labrusca), to which the latter strongly rebuffs.

Apart from sexual addiction, the film also tackles another frequently portrayed mental illness in cinema (I won’t spoil but watching the trailer below will give you a good idea of what I’m talking about). Its premise is mostly founded on Sigmund Freud’s conceptual framework – the clash of id and superego, presented in some form of a twisted reality. As a devil’s advocate, Bascon summons so much menace and self-righteousness in his portrayal. On the other hand, Labrusca may be playing a more passive role in the dynamic but he delivers to a challenging task of enduring mental anguish and relearning gymnastics himself. The film showcases a full display of his flexibility (from somersaults to handstands and all), and in attempt to be socially relevant, it inserts a clunky commentary about the current plight of local gymnasts.

Director and writer Joseph Abello is not afraid in breaking the rules he set beforehand as the third act gets crazier. Benefiting from an eerie musical scoring and a restless editing, the film amps up the testosterone level to reach a shocking, no holds barred finale. At this point, fantasy may completely take over but it in this manner that the film finds its sweet spot.

Written and directed by Joseph Abello, ‘Double Twisting Double Back‘ stars Joem Bascon, Tony Labrusca, Mon Confiado, Suzette Ranillo, Acey Aguilar, Elora Espano, Biboy Ramirez, Sunshine Teodoro, Dalin Sarmiento, Elle Velasco and Ella Mae McCoy. Run time: 115 minutes.


MAMU; AND A MOTHER TOO

Iyah Mina and EJ Jallorina in ‘Mamu (And a Mother Too).’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: A transgender sex worker in her late 40s along Fields Avenue whose only aspiration is to have breast implants for her profession unexpectedly assumes the role of a mother to her orphaned niece, a transgender youth who is only beginning to discover her own sexuality. As she works more shifts to save for her implants, troubles arise when she begins to feel the weight of her struggles – being an aging sex worker in fast-evolving society, a partner to her young fiancé, and a parent to a teenager she just met. Her difficult confrontations eventually lead her to a new attitude towards life, and a unique recipe to a famous Kapampangan dish, Sisig.

Review: Despite coming from a miserable place of sex industry, Mamu (and a Mother Too) teems with genuine kindness most evident in Ernalyn (Iyah Mina in her strong movie debut) as a trans-prostitute with a heart of gold. The main goal here is to redefine the conventions of being a mother and while the film quickly sets up Erna to be a likeable protagonist, for the most part though, she is often tied to her goal of having breast implants to attract more customers. It does excel more on its comedic aspect – the film guilty on meandering in its shallow themes, but with it comes the entertaining banter among its gay supporting characters.

There’s also a hilarious coming-of-age of storyline in Bona (EJ Jallorina comes out as a crowd favorite) and even Vincent (Arron Villaflor) who seems to be Erna’s leeching boyfriend, defies his stereotype midway through the film. But once these subplots converge into its dramatic moments, the emotional weight is ultimately watered down by the film’s lack of focus. During its third act, the film takes Erna’s selflessness to an extreme that feels rather uncalled for.

Still, it’s refreshing to see a film operating in a progressive society – where straight guys openly flirt with gays and never once do the characters make a big deal about sexual orientation. It could have benefited more from a restrained editing but director Rod Singh touches on a lot of socially relevant issues to represent the struggles of a marginalized demographic. The film places its heart on a poignant level of humanity to make us viewers realize that we’re not that different from them after all.

Directed by Rod Singh, ‘Mamu (and a Mother Too)‘ stars Iyah Mina, Arron Villaflor, EJ Jallorina, Markus Paterson and Jovani Manansala. Run time: 90 minutes.


NEVER TEAR US APART

Screen grabs from ‘Never Tear Us Part.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: An aging spy, his delusional wife, and promiscuous son are driven into madness as they confront the terrors caused by the monster known as The Shadow.

Review: I resign any attempt to comprehend what happened in Never Tear Us Apart, let alone think what this movie is really about. Vertically shot using an iPhone, this experimental film is not for everyone. There’s a deliberate intention to confuse the audience – the faces are not shown until the third act and the storyline, interspersed with random clips, don’t have a natural rhythm to sustain coherence. The english dialogues feel contrived and I can’t say that the cinematography truly arrested my attention when I was struggling to stay awake for a good amount of time.

One can argue that the experience is like peering into someone else’s private and promiscuous life. With the amount of soft core porn and BDSM this film has, it clearly tries to stimulate your senses. But instead of pleasure, the meaning gets lost in translation and all I get is a bunch of homework.

There are far more posing questions: What convinced these veteran actors to be involved here? How much did the producers pay for all the copyrighted material inserted? At one point, did director Whammy Alcazaren realize that he’s alienating the ‘average’ viewer too much? He sure does pour his heart here, but it’s a vanity project that only he and his team can fully grasp. Anyway, this form of ‘art’ belongs more in the museum than in the cinema.

Directed by Whammy Alcazaren, ‘Never Tear Us Apart‘ stars Ricky Davao, Meryll Soriano and Jasmine Curtis-Smith. Run time: 85 minutes.


PAGLISAN

Eula Valdes and Ian Veneracion in ‘Paglisan.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: Crisanto and Dolores’ marriage is going through a rough patch. Going through a marital crisis, a couple’s marriage is tested when Crisanto is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease as Dolores sinks deeper into depression. Paglisan tells the story of how a married couple attempt to survive together through fading memories and fleeting identities.

Review: At first, the gradual deterioration in Paglisan’s animation may seem like a product of rushed production but in hindsight, this is actually a reflection of Cris’ decline in mental faculties. Director Carl Joseph Papa, as seen in his previous work in Manang Biring, seems to have a preference for the humble 2D animation but I would have appreciated if there’s more frames and details here. Perhaps that’s the only thing that hinders me in giving this beautiful film a perfect score because such anti-climatic style gets in the way of earning its maximum emotional impact. Given with a larger budget, this film though is very ripe for a remake. So here’s my unsolicited opinion: go for live action in the first act, then the Manang Biring pseudo-animation for the second act and finally, save the storyboard style for the third act.

And man, I am disappointed that the trailer bears no hint that this is actually a musical. If the trailer did so, this film would’ve drawn more attention because the songs are really good. Eula Valdes’ vocals shine during her breakdown number of “Pagod Na” and Ian Veneracion sings plenty of catchy songs too, with “Ten Past Eleven” being the standout. There’s also a pleasant surprise as Khalil Ramos and Junjun Quintana join in a rendition of Do Re Mi’s “I Can” performance. Will someone make a petition to put these songs on Spotify?

Despite its limitations, Paglisan is something that I can embrace and recommend wholeheartedly. We don’t often get a local animated feature these days, let alone also a musical. As Veneracion performs his heartbreaking swan song in the end, the film reminds its viewers that memories may fade and bodies may fail, but unconditional love never forgets.

Directed Carl Joseph Papa, ‘Paglisan‘ stars Ian Veneracion, Eula Valdez, Khalil Ramos and Junjun Quintana. Run time: 100 minutes.


PANG-MMK

Neil Coleta in ‘Pang MMK.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: Being the legitimate son, Janus was given the stressful responsibility to take care of his father’s funeral. With the presence of a senator, constant phone calls from his mother (who was in the United States), and the conflict between his scandalous sister and his father’s mistress; the funeral became dramatic, chaotic, and hilarious.

Review: Almost everything about Pang-MMK screams of repetition. It beats you on the head with the same running jokes. To repeat them twice will elicit laughs, but to rehash them for the third or fourth time, is already telling how actually thin the material is. Engrossed on gags, this film has little regard for its main character’s development – Janus remains emotionally unbothered of what’s happening around him. The film misses the opportunity to explore the history with his father and thereby, give him a more meaningful arc.

Neil Coleta does his best to impersonate a sassy gay and Nikki Valdez gives an all out performance as a vulgar drunk woman, but none of their characters are simply likeable enough for the viewers to root for. It does not help that the film has a misguided notion into thinking that profanity is tantamount to punchlines. (They’re not.) Director John Lapus seems to be following the footsteps of Wenn Deramas, but this style of direction starts to feel outdated in the current landscape of local cinema. Even the rip-off musical scoring turns off.

It’s a shame because making a parody sequel to an original “Maalaala Mo Kaya” episode seems like a fun concept to play with. But without a solid emotional core, this film just falls apart regardless how much star power it has. The unimaginatively titled theme song “Pang-MMK” played in the credits section puts the final nail in the coffin.

Directed by John Lapus, ‘Pang MMK‘ stars Neil Coleta, Nikki Valdez, Zeppi Borromeo, Joel Torre, Ricky Davao, Cherry Pie Picache, Charo Santos-Concio, Mosang, Marife Necesito, Dennis Obispo, Ricel Vito, Kakai Bautista, Anjo Damiles, Agot Isidro and Jojit Lorenzo. Run time: 99 minutes

Read more: Part 2 of Cinema One 2018 coverage

GUIDE: Cinema One Originals Festival 2018

The 14th annual Cinema One Originals Festival runs October 12-21 with the tagline “I Am Original.”

Venues

  • Trinoma in Quezon City
  • Glorietta in Makati
  • Gateway Cineplex in Araneta, Cubao
  • Powerplant Cinema in Rockwell, Makati
  • Powerplant Cinema in Santolan Town Plaza
  • SM Megamall in Mandaluyong
  • SM North EDSA in Quezon City
  • SM Sta. Mesa in Manila
  • SM Manila
  • UP Cine Adarna in U.P. Diliman, Quezon City
  • FDCP Cinematheque Manila
  • Cinema ’76 (San Juan and Anonas branches)
  • Black Maria Cinema in Mandaluyong
  • Cinema Centenario in Maginhawa St., Quezon City

Screening Schedules

Ticket Information

Ticket price is at P200 per screening in major and alternative cinemas.

Students get to avail of the discounted price of P150 when they personally present a valid ID when purchasing tickets.

Ticket price is at P150 per screening at SM Cine Lokal theaters. FDCP price is at P100 per screening.

Festival passes are exclusively available via ktx.abs-cbn.com.

Opening Film

  • ‘A Star is Born’ by Bradley Cooper

Cinema One Originals will open three days before the start of the festival proper with Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, ‘A Star is Born,’ starring Lady Gaga and himself.

The invitational advance screening of ‘A Star is Born’ is on October 9 at Gateway Cinema 5.

Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut A Star Is Born is a remake of a remake of a remake, and a remake of a film that’s beloved in each iteration. At some point, Cooper’s friend Eddie Vedder tried to discourage him from touching a classic. The second remake, in 1954, starring Judy Garland, turned the original film about a movie star on the rise and the man who discovers and falls in love with her into one of the most enduring musicals in Hollywood, transposing its Svengali narrative to the music business of the time, while the subsequent 1976 remake, with Barbra Streisand, re-purposed it against a rock and roll backdrop has become iconic. Cooper eventually ignored Vedder’s warnings and his remake, which stars himself as a down and out country singer who discovers and mentors and is eventually smitten by an unknown singer-songwriter, played by Lady Gaga, in what has been hailed as a breakout performance, premiered  at the Venice International Film festival, and has become one of the most unani

Films in Competition

Full-length feature films:
  • ‘A Short History of a Few Bad Things’ by Keith Deligero
  • ‘Asuang’ by Raynier Brizuela
  • ‘Bagyong Bheverlynn’ by Bebs Gohetia
  • ‘Double Twisting Double Back’ by Joseph Abello
  • ‘Hospicio’ by Bobby Bonifacio
  • ‘Mamu; and A Mother Too’ by Rod Singh
  • ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by Whammy Alcazaren
  • ‘Pang-MMK’ by John “Sweet” Lapus
  • ‘Paglisan’ by Carl Joseph Papa

(Trailers and other information are on a separate section below.)

Short films:

SET A:
WALL by Jazz Sol
KETCHUP by Denise Dar Juan
LAST ORDER by Joji Villanueva Alonso
PARA KAY JAMES by Steven Paul Evangelio
3021 by Edmund Mabanag Telmo
WALAY HUMAYAD SA TANGLAD by Neil Angelo Briones

SET B:
NANGUNGUPAHAN by Glenn Barit
PULANGUI by Bagane Fiola
WAG MO AKONG KAUSAPIN by Josef Gacutan
SA PAG-AGOS NG PANAHON by Annika Yañez
TO REMAIN IS TO HAVE BEEN LEFT by Pam Miras
ANG MGA TURO NG GABI by Christian Rae Villanueva
MANILA IS FULL OF MEN NAMED BOY by Andrew Stephen Lee

World Cinema

  • ‘Ash is Purest White’ by Jia Zhang-Ke (China)
  • ‘Girl’ by Lukas Dhont (Belgium)
  • ‘The Heiresses’ (Paraguay)
  • ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ by Desiree Akhavan (US/UK)
  • ‘The Poet and The Boy’ (South Korea)
  • ‘Whitney’ by Kevin Macdonald (US/UK)

Restored Classics

Cinema One Originals will premiere two restored classics through ABS-CBN Film Restoration:

  • ‘Minsa’y Isang Gamugamo’
  • ‘Omeng Satanasia’

Three more titles which are digitally restored and remastered will also be featured.

Partnership with Karton.ph

In the spirit of celebrating and upholding Filipino originality, Cinema One Originals will be supporting another kind of local outside of cinema through its partnership with the local e-commerce website, www.karton.ph. The wide and diverse range of authentic and handcrafted Filipino products in this website range from gourmet and artisanal food and beverages; to natural and organic wellness and beauty products; to books, home décor, paintings, accessories, bags and more. Some of these proudly Pinoy-made products will be on sale during the festival.

Feature Films in Competition

For its fourteenth year, Cinema One Originals gave out grants of P3,000,000 each to nine original narrative features, three to filmmakers who are making their first feature films.

‘A Short History of a Few Bad Things’ by Keith Deligero

In the southern Philippine city of Cebu, a troubled detective struggles to solve a series of grisly killings, while a deep conspiracy works to keep the truth just out of his reach.

Keith Deligero is making his third Cinema One Originals film this year, reinforcing his almost chameleon-like refusal to make the same film twice. Iskalawags was a bildungsroman set in a remote island community and Lily, which starred Shaina Magdayao, was a  full-on pulp-horror epic based on a Cebuano urban legend.  Much as it’s inspired, albeit tangentially, by his own short film Babylon, and is haunted by the Mobo massacre of 2010, A Short History of a Few Bad Things is a more straightforward genre exercise, what Deligero calls a “tropical noir”

A grizzled police detective, played by Victor Neri, becomes obsessed with solving a series of murders that nobody seems to want to get to the bottom of, and may be connected to him more than he thinks. Set again, much like his last two films, in and around his native Cebu, and inundated with the city’s temperaments and textures, A Short History Of a Few Bad Things  may well be Deligero’s  most genre-centric and certainly his most political work, a full-on hardboiled crime piece that he ultimately sums up as  “a kind of love letter to our city.”


‘Asuang’ by Raynier Brizuela

Rayn Brizuela is one of those three first-timers, and Asuang pretty much  defies easy pigeon-holing. Despite what the title may imply, this is not a horror film, but rather a found footage mockumentary about mythical deities trying to survive in a post-internet world on one hand, and on the other, a superhero inversion about the clash between myth and technology. “The real you, not the virtual you, is what’s important” Brizuela says, articulating the film’s thematic underpinnings, the way it questions notions of identity in a world where you can create and curate fake selves.

Alwyn Uytingo plays the eponymous character, the God of Sin from Bikolano mythology, who sets out on a quest to try and save the world and in the process save his brand, too, with a group of misfits played by Paolo O Hara and Chai Fonacier, among others.


‘Bagyong Bheverlynn’ by Bebs Gohetia

Taken one way, you can look at Bagyong Bheverlyn as no less than the comeback of Booba  herself,  Ruffa Mae Quinto as Bheverlyn, a recently heartbroken woman, who realizes the reason why the approaching supertyphoon has the same name as hers is that her misery is causing it and the only way to save the country from being wiped out when it makes landfall is for her to find. . . true happiness. Considering its outrageous premise, director Charliebebs Gohetia says that “while a big chunk of Bheverlynn is satirical but it’s also a journey of discovering her self-worth.”

Gohetia’s films, from The Thank You Girls to I Love You Thank You,  have always been laced with a sense of humor but Bagyong Bheverlyn, his first for Cinema One Originals, may well be his first outright comedy, albeit with qualifiers.  “Bheverlynn was an opportunity to reconstruct the typical form of the genre. It’s outrageous but it deals with very real struggles.”


‘Double Twisting Double Back’ by Joseph Abello

The film tells the story of a male Gymnast diagnosed with mental disorder.

“ I knew that I wanted the character to be a gymnast.” Joseph Abello is talking about the genesis of his second film, and his first for Cinema One Originals, Double Twisting Double Back.

“Gymnastics here in the Philippines is very underrated It’s a world that hasn’t been presented yet in local cinema.” Hot on the heels of his debut  What Home Feels Like, Double Twisting Double Back centers on two wildly divergent men, Badger and Wasi, played by Tony Labrusca and Joem Bascon, and the war they wage against each other. Badger just wants to be the best gymnast in the country. Wasi just wants to have as much sex as he can. Somewhere down the line, their wants get in each other’s way. Double Twisting Double Back is equal parts psychothriller, sex comedy and sports noir and every bit as strange and as funny and as sexy as that mash-up implies. It is also a film about addiction. “Each of us has some kind of addiction. No one is exempted.  We all have to face our demons.”


‘Hospicio’ by Bobby Bonifacio

After Leslie gets entangled in a drug-related shootout that leaves her little sister in a coma, she is entered into a rehabilitation center. Inside, she realizes that the rehab facility is more than what it seems to be.

Starring Loisa Andalio, Ana Abad Santos, MM Gigante, Elle Ramirez, Mary Joy Apostol, Kurt Kendrick, Manny Castañeda, Aurora Yumul, Francis Mata.

“Everyone has a little bit of crazy in them. But should we get well soon?” Bobby Bonifacio is talking about his second feature Hospicio, an indirect sequel to his 2006 debut Numbalikdiwa which, in the twelve years since, has gone down  as one of the most unsettling,  and in turn most exciting, horror films of that year.

By “everyone”, he means the residents of the eponymous facility, Hospicio Nueva Vida, which include an also-ran Diva, a loud and proud whore, a kleptomaniac, a wannabe teenage suicide, all seen through the eyes of its most recent resident, a drug addict and EJK survivor, who is forced to take residency in the mysterious and inevitably dangerous place after her younger sister takes a bullet meant for her. “As much as it’s a tale of horror, it is also a sarcastic and humorous parody about institutionalization, hypocrisy and self-righteousness.” Hospicio stars Loisa Andalio, Mary Joy Apostol and Ana Abad Santos.


‘Mamu; and A Mother Too’ by Rod Singh

“Womanhood has nothing to do with one’s voice, with one’s physical form. Motherhood is not defined by one’s assigned sex at birth, by one’s profession, by one’s capacity to give birth” In  many ways, this is what Rod Singh’s debut feature Mamu And A Mother Too  is ultimately saying.  He may well mean for you to take the funny/punny and rather clever riff on the title almost literally, given how his film is ostensibly about Mamu, a middle-aged transgender sex worker and how she is thrust into  life-changing circumstances when her transgender niece, Bona, is orphaned and she  finds herself becoming a surrogate mother to a young woman who is herself on the cusp of discovering her own sexuality. “Transitioning goes beyond the physical. Transitioning is a journey through the different aspects of life . Transitioning is a privilege.” Iyya Mina, Arron Villaflor and EJ Jallorina star.


‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by Whammy Alcazaren

Q is an over the hill spy who embarks on one last mission, to find the mysterious Shadow that may or may have taken his son and has infected his wife. Break Never Tear Us Apart down to a synopsis and no matter how straightforward you get, you still get a sense that it isn’t going to be predictable, the sense that it could very well be uncategorizable.  But unpredictable and uncategorizable both seem par for the course with Whammy Alcazaren whose debut feature Islands, also made for Cinema One Originals, somehow made sense of combining such disparate elements as two potential lovers fumbling at connection, Claymation dinosaurs, a stranded astronaut and Moonstar 88. Never Tear Us Apart itself, which Alcazaren describes  as his “portrait of a modern family.” has a woman who bathes herself in radio waves,  youth gangs and strange creatures haunting museums.

“Turn on the television set. Listen to the radio. Scroll through your feed on your phone. Like a post. Tag a friend. Tweet your opinion. Spread your legs wide and let the world bathe over you at the click of a button. We are who we present ourselves to be to the world as a crafted image.” Alcazaren elaborates on the thematic and philosophical underpinnings of his film.  It’s  both personal and reactionary as it joins the struggle of form in this current state of a social and media-related identity.”  Never Tear Us Apart stars Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Meryll Soriano and Ricky Davao star.


‘Paglisan’ by Carl Joseph Papa

Carl Joseph Papa, whose poignant monochromatic animation Manang Biring won Best Picture at the 11th Cinema One Originals, has obsessions he constantly returns to, the passage of time and the tolls it takes on our bodies, the rituals of disease and healing, his own family’s experience with the rot of mortality, and of course, the potentials of animation as a feature-length narrative platform for more adult material. Working with a broader palette this time, Papa returns to all his previous obsessions in Paglisan, inspired partly by his own grandmother’s experience with dementia, and with the added layer of also being a musical of sorts.

Papa comes to the material from two vantage points. “I wanted to understand the experience my grandparents had, shed light on dementia, on depression. At the same time, I also wanted to capture the power of music in film”  In Paglisan, Crisanto is a middle-aged movie star who is suddenly afflicted with early onset Alzheimer’s and finds himself living in seclusion with  a wife, Dolores, whose own unhappiness has becoming a sort of affliction, too. Ian Veneracion and Eula Valdez play Crisanto and Dolores. “Animation should not be just a genre for kids, or fantasy. It can do everything a live action film can, and should.” Paglisan also stars Khalil Ramos and Junjun Quintana. 


‘Pang-MMK’ by John “Sweet” Lapus

The title might be enough of a clue but John Lapuz reiterates how his debut feature Pang MMK is “a dark comedy, a parody of the ABS CBN anthology” which follows a young man who, after finding out his estranged and philandering father, whom he hasn’t seen in twenty years, has suddenly died, must go to his funeral and get it over with. Of course, things aren’t going to be that simple. “This is an answered prayer. I was at my lowest when I wrote the script. Now I even get to direct it.”

The story is based on an actual story featured in the show twenty years ago, picking up where the episode left off and following the character through his next journey. “It’s a little dramatic, but big on funny too, because that’s the kind person I am.” says Lapuz. Neil Coleta, Nikki Valdez and Zeppi Boromeo star.